Disgraced cardinal George Pell has been granted a final chance to overturn his historic child sexual abuse offences.
The High Court of Australia agreed to hear the appeal arguments in a special full court sitting. The decision will consider both the application for leave and the cardinal’s case, which means there is a chance the court may not grant special leave application.
On Wednesday morning, Justice Michelle Gordon and Justice James Edelman called for the appeal to be referred to a full bench of seven justices. The decision was based on submissions from both sides lodged ahead of the special leave application.
“In this application, Justice Edelman and I order that the application for special leave to appeal to this Court from the judgment and orders of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria given and made on 21 August 2019 be referred to a Full Court of this Court for argument as on an appeal,” Justice Gordon said.
Mr Pell’s lawyers will now present the case as if special leave has been granted and will proceed with arguments on appeal. As this happens, justices of the High Court will disclose whether or not he should be granted special leave.
If the appeal goes ahead and grants the appeal on one or more grounds, the court can order a retrial, an acquittal or can send the case back to the Victorian Court of Appeal.
It comes after Mr Pell’s lawyers argued the jury was unreasonable in their verdict and claimed there was reasonable doubt over whether or not opportunities existed for the crimes to have occurred and pointing to the evidence it put forth.
This decision puts on hold the release of new findings from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Attorney-General indicated the full report, which includes findings into Mr Pell, will not be released while the case is open.
Meanwhile, the father of Mr Pell’s late victim wrote to the Pope to ask why Mr Pell has kept his title as cardinal and why he has not instructed that Mr Pell drop attempts to lodge an appeal and admit guilt: “He has been found guilty by a jury in court of law.”
“I will always miss the innocent little choirboy that was my son, such a tragic waste of a beautiful boy whose life became a nightmare for himself and those around him,” he said.